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Cedar Rapids Historic Markers

1950's photo of the motel

In 1953, local African American entrepreneurs Cecil and Evelyn Reed opened the Sepia Motel here, on fifteen acres along Bertram Road and Mt. Vernon Road—then the Lincoln Highway. Denied lodging during a previous road trip due to race—a common occurrence nationwide—the Reeds opened the Sepia to all. It was among only a dozen lodging establishments statewide that accepted blacks. The Reed acreage eventually included ten lodging units, their family home, and eleven acres of parkland. The property was sold to the City of Cedar Rapids in 1964. No buildings remain. Cecil Reed served in the Iowa legislature, advocating for civil rights and fair housing.

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© 2023  Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 101 First Street SE

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